When you want to start a movement, your natural goal should be to get people involved and excited for the movement’s cause as much and quickly as possible. That means people need to be unconditionally attracted to what you do, to make it very easy for them to join and to inspire others to do the same. As soon as you add conditions under which people can or cannot join, you are draining the movement of the fuel that makes it thrive: inclusiveness.
It seems that entry barriers caused by such conditions are especially problematic when the movement is about something everybody should be able to identify with.
Let’s take a look at the movement against climate change and its many sub-movements like veganism, carbon neutral business development or sustainable fashion for example. Those movements and their “success” are dependent on the amount of people supporting them. Veganism will only reach its goal to truly improve the situation for all animals on our planet if the majority of our population adapts it. Carbon neutral business development only works if there are enough companies active that provide carbon neutral products and services that allow other businesses to build supply chains that have the natural limitations of our planet in mind. The fashion industry will only be able to be re-engineered if the customer demand for sustainable fashion becomes higher than for the current fast fashion.
So I think it’s safe to say that every movement’s existence is dependent on their participants passing on two main goals to new members: The goal of the movement itself and to be open to everyone else that wishes to join the movement to make it grow as widely as possible in order to achieve true impact.
The latter I personally feel is often not respected well enough. In my experience people with good intentions of becoming part of a movement in order to live a more sustainable lifestyle are often confronted with peers of that movement that call them out for their existing imperfections, that are supposedly disqualifying. That kind of pressure to be ‘all-in or out’ eventually makes people drop the idea of transitioning to a more sustainable lifestyle, because the entry barrier to acceptance seems too high. This binary “come perfect or go home” attitude towards aspiring members I believe to be the main cause for the sustainability movement to not be spread more widely yet.
Sadly, somehow there is more pressure towards people that make an attempt to live sustainably than towards people that are living an unsustainable lifestyle but also don’t claim to make any efforts. Currently it’s easier to be a bystander than to get active and try.
But why is that?
In my impression, the cause for this lies in the very nature of us humans. We seek stimuli and instant gratification in most things we do. It fuels our actions, from self-rewarding actions like buying a new car to altruistic actions like helping someone cross the street and that’s completely fine. However, I think it’s also in every human’s responsibility to make sure that their gratification does not mean harm to something or someone else even if the thing they do has good intentions at its core. Simply said: I believe we humans sometimes just pick the wrong reason to do the right thing, meaning they promote to do the right thing but advertise it with a motivation that can be a turn off for others.
Another factor that can emphasize this issue is that there is not much instant gratification in being part of most movements that want to solve environmental issues. Due to the complexity and intransparency of most of these issues, it takes a long time for impact to show, let alone to break down to the positive impact of single individuals. In other words, living a sustainable lifestyle does not unveil the immediate impact it has and thus often feels unrewarding.
Those two components, humans always seeking gratification and the lack of instant gratification in some movements can cause people to create gratification by putting themselves over others for example. While this behaviour is probably very natural I believe it’s time for us to re-evaluate what gives us satisfaction and to tune it in a way that is beneficial for everyone.
The best gratification to pursue is probably the one you get for enabling new systems (for example produce on demand fashion through the willingness to wait for clothes to be produced), to be one of many pioneers that lead the way with positivity and a progressive, open mindset. Instead of blaming someone for not being “all in” showing them that their effort is appreciated and valid and to see them becoming part of your movement instead of being scared off by it, is the best gratification that truly benefits everyone.
Which brings me to my bottom line for this article: Being inclusive means to work with who and what you have. It means to understand that becoming an advocate for positive change is a journey with multiple steps that take time. Every effort and everyone counts. The systems we have built in the past are incredibly complex and unfortunately we cannot switch them to be life-sustaining in the binary way many demand.
The process of transitioning how our world works is imperfect in itself. There are no perfect solutions out there yet that would justify demanding people to get rid of all imperfection in their consumer lifestyle from one day to another. But there are a lot of very good points to start. Let’s embrace this multi-step journey of transformation together and iterate collectively until positive change is undeniable.
Let’s make the transition to efficient and life-sustaining supply chains throughout all industries a transparent, fun and compassionate process that makes everyone feel included and valid to become part of it.
We believe it’s time to create business that truly includes people and their opinions throughout the process of creating products and evolving business. It will create value and transparency for everyone, making it fun and satisfying to enable a new world economy that creates positive change for everyone, including our planet. Only then the movement of creating global positive change through business will be fueled enough to truly create positive change for everyone, including our planet.